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Guitar-bass interplay

Discussion in 'Ask Mike Watt [Archived]' started by Dave Siff, Aug 28, 2001.

  1. Dave Siff

    Dave Siff Supporting Member

    Hi Mike,
    Firstly, it's great to have you here. Your playing has been a huge influence on me, and a true inspiration. I'm lookin' forward to seein' you here in Atlanta on October 19!
    I wanted to ask you about your approach to writing bass lines for songs that are based around guitar riffs, as opposed to chord progressions. The band I'm in now is a trio, the guitar player writes all the songs and a lot of them center on single-note guitar lines, or really angular riffs. In most cases, I feel like if I don't simply double the guitar, or harmonize the riffs, I'll get in the way. I know that you solved that problem in Minutemen and fIREHOSE by writing a lot of the songs! But the ones you didn't write, where the guitar parts were more note-based than chordal, how did you approach writing around them and still making the parts interesting?
    Thanks for your time, and safe travels..
  2. watt

    watt TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    hi dave,

    great question. a lot of bass in my opinion is about composition. playing is important too but having something good to play is very key. sometimes it's good to counterpoint: play the holes the other cats leave and then drop some holes yourself so they can dive in. ensemble playing is about conversation - musical conversations. makes things dynamic and interesting. getting unison at times is good too, especially for drama - like in beethoven's fifth: da-da-da-duh - you wouldn't want to counterpoint that! it's all a matter of what distinct personalities can bring to a whole, to build the song house. there are no hard and fast rules. w/riff stuff, you can move in another direction than the guitar for a bit and then join back up. the trick is to make the music breathe. there's also ramping up and down into different parts like a drummer might do w/fills. the drummer usually doesn't riff like the guitar so you play off him for ideas too - remember, it's a rhythm section.

    in fIREHOSE, ed always gave me chords and hardly ever wrote riffs. w/the chord stuff, you can get real melodic cuz the guitar opens up a lot of room for you.

    it all comes down to interesting conversations between the instruments. the harmony too. colors from different combinations of notes from the involved instruments to make interesting chords. lots of possibilities. experiment a bunch before you settle on a part.

    hope this helps.

    on bass, watt

  3. Dave,

    Where the heck is Mike playing, and where the heck is it? :D

    I haven't been very many places in Atlanta, don't you know! ;)

  4. I was wondering about something similar. I might come up with a guitar riff but have no idea for a bass part and vice versa. What you said sounds very logical.

    P.S. Mr. Watt, please check your e-mail. :)
  5. Dave Siff

    Dave Siff Supporting Member

    Thanks. What you say makes sense.. of course, it's more difficult to put into practice! But since I got in this band, I've been listening to your stuff more than ever for guidance.

    Watt is playing at the EARL in East Atlanta on the 19th of October. It's on Flat Shoals Ave., off Moreland south of I-20. Cool club, great room. If you've never seen Mike play live, trust me, you don't want to miss it! You can get advance tickets online at the EARL's Web site.. http://www.badearl.com .. might be a good idea, it's a relatively small room and I'd expect the show will be packed to the gills, especially considering it's a Friday night.
  6. Thanks for the info Dave! Hope to see you there. :D

  7. watt

    watt TalkBass Pro Supporting Member


    here's the schedule for my next tour:


    on bass, watt

  8. Thanks Watt! I'm going to try to make the Atlanta show. Dave was kind enought to send me the URL for the club you're playing in here, so I actually have an idea how to get there. I tend to get lost in my own bathroom! :D

  9. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    My $.02 on guitar/bass interplay. Listen to Bruce/Clapton on the Live Cream recordings. I just don't think it gets much better than that.
  10. watt

    watt TalkBass Pro Supporting Member


    I really like what they do on "crossroads" from "wheels of fire."

    on bass, watt